Profiles / Rising S.T.E.M. Stars

Courtney Powell


Engineering Major Fuels Her Passion to Inspire Young Black Women Entrepreneurs

Social Media / Blogger From Washington D.C.

www.ThinkandGrowChic.com

A few years ago Carol Bronner came to my business school. I was in the audience listening. I don’t know if it was an illusion or naiveté or whatever but by the end of that talk I was inspired to start a hair care company, something bigger than Carol’s Daughter and blow it out of the water.

I was an engineering student at the time and I met another girl who was a chemistry major. We linked up, went to the iLab and started coming up with logos and a name to take over Carol’s Daughter. So fast forward to an internship. I was making a little money and started to buy things online like Shea butter and literally started to mix things up in the little apartment. I was scared that I was going to mess up the furniture. That summer I must have spent over $300 creating around a hundred units of my products and it quickly hit me that no one knew who I was or about my expertise. No one knew why they should buy from me versus FLORA or their local beauty supply store.

 

So what do I need? I need a website. I didn’t know anything about website design. I didn’t have any money for hosting but I thought it was a good idea to start a blog. So my first business was called “Material Girl Beauty” and I had my little blog spot set-up. It was nothing special. Although I eventually moved away from “Material Girl Beauty,” I learned that, for the hair products business, blogging and social media are great ways to set yourself up as an expert to the consumers that you’re trying to reach. It’s just like computers. An Apple computer has the same capabilities as a low-cost, no-name computer. But early on Apple set themselves up as the expert in computers in terms of innovation. There is no reason why any of you, regardless of what your passion or niche, couldn’t – and shouldn’t — set yourself up as an expert for whatever you want to accomplish.

So I wanted to do this hair care business. I have this crazy hair and people would stop me on the street and ask how I got my hair like that. I started my blog and wrote about the different products that I used. That blog was not as nearly as popular as the one I have now. Today I get a couple thousand hits per month.

But at the time, my blog followers wanted to know where I bought something or what products I specifically used. Grown women sent me long emails asking me what to do about their hair. It was mind boggling and it took me a while to really understand what was going on. I didn’t realize that I was setting myself up as this expert. But that is exactly what happened. Sure, I had this hair care company and I was young but because of my blog content, people realized that they should listen to me.

Fast forward now to what I have. ThinkandGrowChic.com was started originally because I was frustrated with not finding a lot of resources for young black women to help us achieve goals. I am a voracious reader of business books and self-help manuals. As you can see, my company’s name is inspired by the book “Think and Grow Rich,” which I hope you read. It’s a great book by Napoleon Hill. But I was so frustrated that I took my own path to achieve my goals. Sure I read a lot of self-help books but on some levels they didn’t resonate with me. I am not a white boy from Harvard in flip flops. I want to do what is important to me. I want to dress a certain way. I want to look a certain way. Even though I could not find any resources that were aimed at people like me, I was determined to follow my entrepreneurial goals.

The response was crazy! In the middle of the night I was receiving twitter and long emails from girls at colleges like the University of Texas, Harvard and Hampton University. Just random people, people I have never met telling me that my content resonated strongly with them and they needed more advice. I asked myself “who am I? I’m just a student like them.”

But I realized that I was in advertently doing the same thing that I did with my hair care business and the blog. I was setting myself up as an expert. This time, I’m a few years older. I was trying to get into the social media framework. I instinctively knew that if these women were reaching out to me that I better develop something quick that will continue to target and talk to them. I decided to build the next best thing. I have a platform that’s engaging these young women. So I started restricting my blog and started to tweet more constructively. Before I was just twittering my friends saying whatever I wanted. Now when I tweet, I am more specific and strategic about the kind of information that I put out. Again, it’s all about establishing yourself as the expert with your audience. The goal is that once I get my services and products together, they will trust my advice so much that they will buy from me what I recommend. In order to have such a devoted following, I had to firmly establish my expertise.

It was easy and strange at the same time. I couldn’t shake the notion that I was a student just like my followers. But I thought of myself as a brand – a walking business. The business of Courtney Powell has already been generating revenue streams based on what I’ve developed with my little blog.

I just met this 40-something-year-old woman who was an interior designer. I was just raving on about social media and my blog and she went home and checked out my site. About a week later she called me saying we needed to link up. She needed help with the social media marketing strategy for her interior design firm. Again, I’m just a college student but she liked what she saw because I was so clear about my niche. I know exactly who these girls are, how old they are, where they go to school, what their hair is like and what type of clothes they like to wear. I accomplished that within six months of my blog. She was confident that even though our target audiences were different, I could help her establish her expertise with her clients and potential clients.

My roommate, who is much older than I, graduated and works in philanthropy. She saw my work and is hiring me to get her philanthropic investing firm off the ground by starting a blog. Opportunities are still relatively small. I still am seeking the best way to grow the “ThinkandGrowChick” brand. But it is already speaking for me as an individual…Courtney Powell. So the company Courtney Powell already has a few revenue streams coming in. Hopefully it will really take off. Who knows what ThinkandGrowChick can do?

Here’s the most important lesson to learn from all this. I started off by just fooling around blogging and writing on Facebook. I just fell into it. So if I can do it, you guys can definitely do it too